Tonight: Michael Hardie and Milton Hopkins at Red Cat Jazz Cafe

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It takes a lot of nerve to call your CD Waiting for Perfection, even when the featured guitarist’s bona fides are as untouchable as they come. Milton Hopkins has played with Little Richard and Sam Cooke, among many others, spent a decade shoring up B.B. King’s licks and just happens to share a bloodline with H-Town blues Buddha Lightnin’ Hopkins (they’re cousins).

With such an ace in the hole, though, it’s puzzling why Hardie and his Myla Hardie Family Band – including Aretha Franklin and Steely Dan alumnus Chuck Rainey on bass, and some very Mickey Raphael-like harmonica from Jon Paris – seem reluctant to let Hopkins unleash the full measure of his talent. Until the very end, Hopkins only gets to showcase his stinging single-note skills on the fanciful blues “I Dreamed I Met Bob Dylan.”

Luckily Hardie, whose own resume includes opening for Buddy Guy and Junior Wells and sitting in with George Harrison and Taj Mahal, is a strong enough songwriter – he wrote everything on


save a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” (no great shakes) and, well, read on – to rescue the album from lapsing into complete cliché, especially on Louisiana-laced mid-album trilogy “Outskirts of Town,” “Chocolate for Breakfast” and “What’s Wrong With You.”

Then, at the very end, comes the Perfection's true perfection: a cover of Lightnin’s “Mojo Hand” that finally turns his cousin loose, then a priceless Hopkins interview (“The closest I got to Lightnin’ was in San Francisco…”) that gives this three-star album a five-star conclusion. – Chris Gray

8 p.m. tonight, Red Cat Jazz Café, 924 Congress, 713-226-7870. $7 cover includes a copy of Waiting for Perfection.

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